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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

What Voters Know about State Finances

Deliberation depends on information. In our chapter on public opinion and political participation, we note that voters are not always well-informed on public issues. One example comes from the Public Policy Institute of California, which reports on a recent poll of the state's voters:
Most Californians’ views about the budget are not based on an understanding of where the money comes from and where it goes. A majority of adults say they have some knowledge (39%) or a lot of knowledge (15%) about how state and local governments spend and raise money. But given a list of the four top state spending categories—K–12 public education, health and human services, higher education, and prisons and corrections—just 16 percent (22% likely voters) correctly name K–12 education as the area where the most money is spent. A plurality of adults (45%) and likely voters (41%) name prisons and corrections, which is actually fourth largest. On the revenue side, just 29 percent of adults (33% likely voters) correctly name the personal income tax as the top source. Only 6 percent of adults and 9 percent of likely voters are able to identify both the state’s top area of spending and its top revenue source.